“Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.” — Numbers 22:6
The Torah portion for this week is Balak, after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2–25:9, and the Haftorah is from Micah 5:6–6:8.
In this week’s reading, we learn that Balak, the Moabite king, feared the Israelites greatly. Balak could see that the Israelites were a blessed people with God on their side. He knew that his nation did not stand a chance against them. So he devised a plan and sent messengers to a prophet named Balaam, asking him to curse the Israelites: “For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”
The Jewish sages provide some commentary on this, explaining, “And if you ask why the Holy One caused His glory to rest upon so wicked a heathen, there is an answer. In order that the heathens should not have an excuse to say, ‘If we too would have had prophets, we would have changed for the better.’ God therefore rose up prophets among them but they broke down the moral fence of the world.”
In other words, God gave the world a chance to connect with Him through a prophet, but they chose not to. However, since they had been given the chance, they had no excuses.
Sometimes we might wonder why God gives the blessings of riches and an easy life to some of the most wicked people in the world. But I hear the same answer that the sages gave about Balaam’s gift of prophecy. Perhaps the wicked might say at the end of their lives that if they would have had money, they would have clothed the naked and fed the hungry. They might contend that if they had had more time they might have contributed to God’s purposes. However, the wicked people of the world who have been blessed will have no excuses when they meet their Creator. God gave them so much, yet they chose to use His gifts for sin instead of for good.
The truth is that we have all been blessed with so much, and we, too, will have to give an accounting one day for how we used our blessings. I recently read a story about a Chicago teen who had saved $250 for her prom night, but then decided to use the money to feed the poor instead. She was able to pack dozens of boxes with food and basic necessities. Her conclusion was that if a high school student with no job or car could help the homeless, then we all can. And she’s right.
What can we do with the gifts that God has given us? When my time comes to answer to my Father in Heaven, I want to be able to say, “God, I used your gifts to do good. Thank you for the blessings, and thank you for the opportunity to be a blessing!”
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With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President